Well, in 2011, the Peace Corps will be celebrating its 50th birthday, and it is continuing to do good work. In fact, according to its website, the number of applicants grew by 18% more than a year ago, although I recognize that the economy might have had something to do with it.
The mission statement is in three parts: 1) Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women; 2) Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people served; and 3) Helping promote a better understanding of other people on the part of Americans.
Obviously, the Peace Corps is certainly not for everyone. In fact, if you even have to ask why someone would want to be involved in such a thing “for two whole years,” you probably would never understand. People either have an intuitive understanding about what it is to be a volunteer, or they don’t.
When I went to Costa Rica, I requested the smallest town in the country that had a high school, and they gave it to me.
The reason was in part that it was completely inconsistent with my vision of a Peace Corps experience to take a bus to work, like some of my colleagues did in the capital city.
My town of Palmar Norte was on the Inter-American Highway, about half way from the point south of the capital city of San Jose where the paving on the highway ended, and the Panamanian border, where it resumed.
It is amazing to me that Costa Rica is now a tourist destination, because when I was there people were mostly ignorant of even where it was — often confusing it with Puerto Rico.
But I was a “profesor de educación física” in the high school, and I also taught physical education in the local elementary schools, as well as general health and community recreation in my extended community.
In fact, I probably still hold the world’s record for brushing my teeth in front of more elementary school classes than anyone else in history.